Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

January 15, 2009

Depends on What the Meaning of the Word “Torture” Is

by Stephen Gordon

“As I’ve said before, the United States does not torture,” said President Bush in 2006.  “It’s against our laws and it’s against our values.”

The AP brings us the latest episode of the other half of the story:

“We tortured Qahtani,” Crawford said, making her the first senior Bush administration official to say that aggressive interrogation techniques had crossed the line.

“His treatment met the legal definition of torture, and that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution, she said.

Al-Qahtani in October 2006 recanted a confession he said he made after he was tortured and humiliated at Guantanamo.

The alleged torture, which he detailed in a written statement, included being beaten, restrained for long periods in uncomfortable positions, threatened with dogs, exposed to loud music and freezing temperatures and stripped nude in front of female personnel.

As the aftermath of Gitmo begins, Andrew Sullivan provides one workable definition of the word “torture:”

The definition of torture is when the victim has no effective choice but to say something, true or false, to end the ordeal. You can bring a victim to that point of surrender of his or her soul and will in many different ways.

In the meantime, some people partially responsible for 9/11 may never be prosecuted because of the irresponsible, illegal and immoral acts of the soon-to-be previous administration.

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  • kent beuchert

    Sorry, but providing one instance doesn’t even remotely come close to making the case that the Bush administration either knew of, or condoned torture. Any half-assed lawyer would rip your argument of blame to shreds. Are you now going to assume you can pin the blame on Bush for any crimes that any of the 3 million Federal employees have committed over the past 8 years?
    There is ZERO difference between that and what you are claiming. This article shows why you should know something about the law (or even simple logic) before making such silly and brainless claims.

  • http://gordonunleashed.com/blog/ Stephen Gordon

    Certainly members of the Bush administration attempted to redefine the word torture in order to make the claim that their actions weren’t covered by legal definitions. I personally heard John Yoo do so in a debate with Bob Barr at CPAC.

    There is a clear difference between a few random agents of the US government acting in a rogue manner and a systemic use of such policy on a wider scale (it seems to have happened in multiple countries by various organizations) and over a sustained period of time.

    Whether or not torture is to be considered immoral is a personal issue, I suppose. I continue to stand behind my strongly held belief that torture is indeed immoral.

    Whether or not torture is legal is only a question in the minds of people like John Yoo and Alberto Gonzalez. It’s been outlawed as a matter of US policy for quite some time.

    That the use of torture is irresponsible is the purpose of quoting the Crawford article. Now there likely will be no conviction of the suspect in question.

    I’ve not stated that Bush is directly culpable for any torture-related crime. I’m not in a position to know what he knew nor hear every word which fell from his lips during his presidency.

    However, torture did occur and I placed the political blame where it should lie (based on the information available to me, at least): his administration.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    Kent,

    Do you know *why* the FBI pulled out of the Guantanamo Bay interrogations and ordered its agents to stop participating in CIA interrogations?

    The FBI agents were complaining that the CIA officers were systematically torturing the people they were interrogating.

    Now, it could be that George Bush is merely incompetent, that his underlings did these things without his knowledge. The paper trail linking Donald Rumsfeld to the Pentagon’s torture program is pretty well established, and Rumsfeld and the CIA both were part of the faction led by Dick Cheney, a faction that was defended and enabled by George Bush’s approval throughout.

    If Bush had fired Rumsfeld, and Gates and relieved Gen Sanchez at the outset of the Abu Ghraib scandal, you might be able to make the case that he wasn’t to blame for the crimes committed by U.S. forces. However, his actions in the aftermath of the scandal make it clear that at a minimum he was an accessory after the fact, and was probably part of the conspiracy from the outset.

    IF you want to know why one of the few surviving members of the conspiracy that murdered 3,000 U.S. citizens on 9/11 is about to walk free, you don’t need to look very far. All you have to do is thank George Bush for allowing that would-be murderer to walk free.

  • Akston

    Immoral, illegal, and ineffective.

  • Akston

    Sorry, that link should have been here.

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